PRESTONSBURG — Coroner Greg Nelson told those attending the monthly Communities Against Drug Addiction luncheon that the efforts of groups such as theirs have helped to bring down the number of overdose deaths in Floyd County.
During the meeting, held at noon, Tuesday, at the Floyd County Health Department, Nelson noted that drug overdose deaths peaked in 2010 and 2011, with 43 and 46 deaths, respectively. In 2012, however, the number dropped by more than half, to 21. This year, so far, the number of overdose deaths currently stands at five.
Nelson cautioned that the numbers probably do not give the full picture of the toll of addiction, because they do not include Floyd Countians who might have died in other counties, as well as suicides or car crashes that stem from drug abuse. Still, he said, the numbers are beginning to come down.
“It is helping a little, everybody getting together, groups like this showing an interest in the problem,” Nelson said. “So, it’s a little hope, but everybody together, it is making a big difference.”
Nelson later explained that groups like CADA are showing that people do not have to struggle through their problems alone.
“When [the prescription drug abuse epidemic] first started, people felt singled out,” Nelson explained. “‘What difference can I make?’ But when you get numerous people together and everybody’s got the same interest in mind, it makes a difference.”
Nelson said the simple fact that people are beginning to come to terms with the reality of drug addiction as a community is helping to stem the tide.
“When we first started having talks like this, a lot of people that were there was more ashamed of it, to admit they had family,” Nelson said. “But I’ve had family that’s had drug problems and I’m sure that everybody in this room has had family that’s, you know. It’s getting to be a more common thing, and people are starting to speak out about it, and I think that’s a lot of the reason why it’s starting to be corrected.”
Nelson said that no single drug appears to be the primary cause of overdose deaths. Instead, he said it is generally a combination of drugs that produces a deadly effect.
“A lot of the overdoses, about all of the overdoses that we’ve seen is a combination of drugs and/or alcohol,” Nelson said. “It’s not one particular drug. Usually, it’s like Xanax with hydrocodone, Xanax with methadone, stuff like that, or alcohol.”
Nelson later said there are still many concerns. As law enforcement and the medical community gain tighter control of prescription narcotics, he said he worries that other drugs, such as heroin, will begin to take their place.
“I look for [heroin] to come, because they’re starting to restrict the prescription drugs …” Nelson said. “I look for that to be the next thing.”